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Yoshimasu Gozo

Experimental Translation

Yoshimasu Gozo's multilingual, visually playful poetry provides the quintessential example of "translation resistant" literature. An encounter with his poems is always already an act of translation, so preparing functional translations that can simulate the complex experience of immersing oneself into them is always an adventure in creativity.


My encounter with Gozo began thanks to an invitation from poet / translator / professor Forrest Gander to collaborate on a project that eventually became Alice Iris Red Horse: Poems of Gozo Yoshimasu: A Book in and on Translation (New Directions, 2016).


Reading (or performing) the translations with Gozo has taught me much about bringing poetry to life, both in the sense of rendering it audio through speech and in the sense of walking with it, rolling with it physically, and letting it interact with the objects around the performer.


The single most bizarre and awesome experience I've had as a translator came from working on Gozo's poem, "Mo Chuisle––My Pulse," which I wrote about in “Of Words and Worlds: Toward a Critical Reportage-Translation with Yoshimasu Gōzō and Patrick Chamoiseau” (Annales de littérature comparée  / 比較文学年志. Vol. 52 (2016), pp. 1-16). After banging my head against furniture and walls for several days in an attempt to understand Gozo's intimate engagement with Chamoiseau's text while weaving in French Creole, Ainu and Gaelic words, I arrived at the end of the poem: meaning flooded over me, and I began to sob at the catharsis. Yes, I know it sounds silly –– but to doubters I say, take the Yoshimasu translation challenge: do it and see what happens to you! 

Japanese readers can see my brief discussion of the project in Gendai-shi Techo, “実験的翻訳とトランズレーションスケープにおける吉増剛造、、、、、、『Alice Iris Red Horse』を巡って.” (現代詩手帖. June 2016, pp. 58-59), and can also see a thorough review by Doi Hideyuki (Ritsumeikan Univ) in Gendai-shi Techo's October 2016 edition.

Read reviews of the volume here:

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